is a jeli, from the north-west of Mali. Jelis usually concentrate
on praise songs but Habib opted not to pursue that route with
his music. Habib's parents were both musicians and he learnt
to sing and play the guitar just by observing and listening
to them. His next step was to join the National Institute of
Arts (INA) in Bamako where he soon became conductor of the band.
During his time at the INA he performed with a number of well
known Malian musicians including Kélétigui Diabaté
who is now a member of Habib's own band, Bamada which he formed
in 1988. Incidentally, Bamada is a nickname for people who live
After the release of the song 'Nanalé', Habib received
the prestigious Radio France International (RFI) Discoveries
prize. This award made it possible for the group to go on their
first tour outside of Africa, which they did in 1994. Habib's
albums include Muso Ko (1994), Baro (2001)
and Afriki (2007). The theme of Afriki is
the strengths and challenges of Africa, a subject about which
Habib gives a lot of thought.
Instruments that members of Bamada play include harmonica, balafon
and violin. Hand clapping is also a very distinctive sound on
many of the songs. Habib's lyrics are mostly about social and
development issues and when these are printed on the CD liner
notes they are definitely well worth reading because of their
deep insights. One of Habib's best known songs is 'Cigarette
Abana' (No More Cigarettes), first recorded in 1991 on the CD
Muso Ko, with a new Latin-style version on Baro.
Malian musicians often concentrate on music just from their
own areas but Habib's music covers the whole of Mali. After
playing a variety of African and Western rhythms he made a conscious
to focus on the very wide
of Malian rhythms. He sets out
vision and feelings on this in the notes that accompany his
CD Ma Ya (1998). He takes the traditional instruments
and adapts their sounds to the acoustic guitar. Habib's main
instrument is the acoustic guitar and he also sings.
Habib and Bamada were on stage at the African Roots and Shoots
Festival at London's Barbican in 2000 (see photo) and have also
performed at many other international festivals. Later in 2000,
Habib was part of the "Voices of Mali" tour in USA
and Canada. Read about Habib and Bamada's concert in February
Habib is one of Mali's most successful musicians internationally
- he's very popular with international musicians with whom he
has performed and recorded like Eric Bibb and Bonnie Raitt.
On Afriki, the horns on the anthemic track 'Africa'
are arranged by Pee Wee Ellis.
Habib's music crosses all kinds of barriers and he implores
young people in Mali not to lose hope - after all creation and
imagination don't need money, (Africa is)... "the richest
continent from nearly every perspective". Make no mistake
- Habib's music is a shining example of that great wealth.